Unusual Things To Do In Fukuoka That Are Not In Your Guidebook

By Masumi Endo, a contemporary dancer who wants to show the exciting culture of Fukuoka to the world.
Edited by Matthew Wears

Fukuoka is one of the most exciting places in Japan for tourists to visit for so many reasons. We have our own unique culture that is very different to other places like Tokyo or Kyoto. This uniquely Fukuokan spirit is infused in everything from our special food to specific celebrations that you will only be able to find in Fukuoka. Of course, there is also the friendliness of our people! Many of the unusual things to do in Fukuoka aren’t really that strange to us, but I think for outsiders they are probably very strange indeed. So for any visitor, it’s fun to explore Fukuoka off the beaten path and get some know some of our special traditions. These are some of the weird things to do in Fukuoka that you should definitely try to experience on your visit. A weird and wonderful mix of food, daytime activities, and a couple of things from the famous Fukuoka nightlife that might just make your visit.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival

In Fukuoka, we have a lot of very exciting festivals that happen all year round. The most famous Fukuoka festival is the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival – which is probably quite strange to an outsider, but in Fukuoka, it’s a really important event for everybody. This is a race where men and women carry a very heavy statue that we call Mikosi, through the streets of Hakata. Some people have been injured carrying this, so it’s a very serious race that can be very dangerous! For me though, this has the best energy of all the festivals in Fukuoka. Everyone is happy and everyone is laughing, it’s so much fun to watch and even better to take part. To watch it, you should be in the city at the beginning of July. I don’t think anywhere in the world has a festival like this one, which is why it’s on my unusual things to do in Fukuoka list.

Get Some Street Food At A Yatai

The first thing you should do in Fukuoka, is to have some street food in one of the famous yatai. These are one of the most famous symbols of our city and a very popular place to get some quick but very good food. A yatai is sort of like a little box that becomes a kind of open-air restaurant for people to sit in. They can only hold around ten people or so, but that just makes it an even better experience because you’re mixing with other people. They are usually very popular with local people also, so if you want to start practising your Japanese, this is I where to go. I think that going to a yatai is definitely one of the quirky things to do in Fukuoka, mainly because it’s something that’s very unique to the city - you don’t find them anywhere else in Japan. You will be able to find yatai all over the city, especially if you are walking through the centre of town late in the evenings.

Eat Ramen

If you want to know what to eat in Fukuoka, I’m split between recommending our two local delicacies; ramen and udon. Did you know that it is the original birthplace of ramen? So to get the best ramen is very hard, partly because there are so many places that serve it all over Fukuoka - you could spend a whole day eating you way through the city. But one of the best for me is Ippudo. They have shops all over the world (there’s a really good one in London!), but the original shop can be found in Fukuoka. Another good one with a very unique system is Ichiran. Here, you sit in a kind of small cubicle on your own, and the ramen is passed through to you. The idea of this is that you are not distracted by anyone or anything else, so you will just concentrate on the taste of the ramen! This definitely one of the more unusual things to do in Fukuoka, but I know eating alone in a small cubicle might not be for everyone!

Try A Local Delicacy

Mentaiko is another food that is very, very famous in Fukuoka. I think it is quite funny that to tourists, eating raw fish eggs is one of the weird things to do in Fukuoka that you might not want to try – but you should! The eggs come from a cod fish, which I think you can get in other parts of the world too. When I was in London, a lot of people would eat fish and chips made from cod and it was very good - but for everyone that lives Fukuoka, we much prefer to eat the eggs instead. I would even say it is probably the most special dish that we have! We usually eat this with rice, but sometimes we mix the fish eggs with mayonnaise to make a dish that is both creamy and salty. You can find mentaiko in many shops all over town because it is very popular here. You will be able to spot it straight away, it’s kind of like a pink or orange colour! This is what to eat in Fukuoka if you want to try something really strange.

Watch Kabuki At Hakata-Za

A lot of people say that the Fukuoka nightlife is some of the best in Japan, and I think I’d agree with that. Part of the reason for this is because there are many things that you can do, such as go to the Hakata-Za Theatre. This theatre is one of the most important in the country and it shows the famous Japanese Kabuki shows! If you do not know what Kabuki is, it’s kind of like a very over-the-top traditional Japanese opera show. It might seem a little bit strange to tourists, but Kabuki is actually one of the most important cultural traditions that we have here in Fukuoka. It had been around for many years and is still very popular with locals today. There is no set time for Kabuki, so you will have to look on the Hakata-Za website to see when a show is coming to the theatre. Seeing a Kabuki show is one of the unusual things to do in Fukuoka that you really have to do.

Go Surfing

Did you know that the south of Japan has some great surf breaks? The weather here is a little bit warmer than Tokyo, so in the summer it can get warm enough for swimming in the ocean, but you might still need a wetsuit in the winter time though! In the city of Itoshima, where I am from, it is very trendy now to go surfing or a paddle boarding out in the sea. Also, if you are looking for where to stay in Fukuoka that’s a bit more relaxed than the city center, then I’d really recommend Itoshima. Surfing is a really good way of seeing Fukuoka off the beaten path and meeting some friendly locals. The beaches in this part of Japan are very pretty, although the surfing isn’t up to the high standards of some other places around the world. The small waves are just right if you’re a beginner though, so it’s a good place to try it.

Visit A shrine

The number one place for religious buildings in Japan is Kyoto prefecture, but the second most important is Fukuoka. These temples and shrines are the best place to see some very important historical culture and learn about unique kind of Japanese Buddhism that started here. Many years ago, Buddhist monks travelled to China from Fukuoka and brought back important items that have shaped our culture, such as food items like ramen, udon and soba. There are so many temples that you could spend an entire day exploring them all. Personally, I think it is better to go to one of the hidden gems in Fukuoka instead of the big ones like Kushida. You should go to the Atago shrine because not only is it very beautiful, but you will also get the best views of the city from here as well. You can see the sea and pretty much all of the buildings from here, it’s a really special place in Fukuoka for me.

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